With the persistence of security issues in software development, there is an urgent need for software development companies to prioritize security in the software development life cycle.
Apart from helping them maintain a good reputation and avoid a declining customer base, integrating security in the software development life cycle (SDLC) is also key to protecting organizations from data breaches and other cyberattacks. Therefore, software engineers should take a proactive approach to security during each phase of the SDLC.
Understanding secure software development life cycle
The software development life cycle is not a one-off process that software developers can implement in a linear form. Instead, there are phases of the SDLC that intertwine into many loops where thorough checks are carried out to ensure the proper outcome of the software.
However, it’s not just enough to loop through the phases of SDLC without the proper integration of security checks in each phase. So, what, then, makes a secure software development life cycle?
First, a secure SDLC must incorporate security measures such as code review, penetration testing and architecture analysis. In addition to that, some other security measures that make for a secure SDLC include threat modeling, risk assessment and static analysis.
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Ways to incorporate security into the SDLC
In the software development life cycle, there are certain standards software developers can adopt to ensure a secure SDLC. Some of them are highlighted below alongside the SDLC phases.
1. Requirements gathering phase
Critical security questions that should be asked during the requirement gathering phase include: How quickly can the software recover from a security attack? and What security techniques can protect the software from security attacks?
When you answer these questions at this stage, the security requirements for the software will be clear for the developers.
2. Design phase
The design phase is crucial for security integration in software development. Common software vulnerabilities are usually caused by adopting the wrong technologies in software development.
In this phase, there should be a threat modeling process to ensure possible threats are detected as well as a mitigation plan to protect the software against threats. It’s important to note at this stage that the earlier potential threats are detected, the easier it is for software engineers to come up with a plan to address them.
3. Development phase
Program development designs should be properly assessed at this phase, utilizing internal and external software teams and software development tools. Initial testing, user training, deployment, acceptance testing and management approval are just a few issues that should be described and documented at this stage.
4. Implementation phase
During this implementation phase, the attention should be on automated technology tools and guidelines that will make code reviews easy. Tools that automate code review can be deployed at this phase for thorough code analysis. One of such tools is the static application security testing (SAST) tool. In addition, if your developers intend to make the software open source, then using Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tools can also help them inspect and analyze their codes for vulnerabilities.
5. Testing phase
Developers should adopt some security testing techniques to successfully integrate security at this phase. Some of the security testing techniques to use include:
- Penetration Testing: Using a variety of manual and/or automated testing via DAST tools, testers look for weaknesses in network, application and computer systems that an attacker can take advantage of.
- Fuzz Testing: In fuzz testing, testers can send malformed inputs to the software to enable them to find possible vulnerabilities.
- Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST): As a combination of DAST and SAST testing techniques, IAST ensures potential vulnerabilities are detected during runtime.
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6. Deployment phase
The deployment phase is also critical to improving the software’s security posture. From a security standpoint, deployment in cloud settings poses extra issues. For example, database parameters, private certificates and any other deployment-related sensitive configuration parameters should always be saved in secret management solutions like key vaults made available to programs during runtime.
7. Post-deployment and maintenance
When the software development process reaches this point, it enters maintenance mode. At this phase, monitor the new program’s performance regularly. In addition to that, try to make necessary changes without causing major production delays by making a schedule for patching and system shutdowns for maintenance, hardware updates and disaster recovery tasks.
Furthermore, developers can use security scan tools to check for vulnerabilities in applications or networks. These solutions can run continuous security scans and alert you if any dangers are discovered. However, it’s worth noting that security scanners should be utilized responsibly. Use these scanners only with the consent of the owners of the infrastructure or applications.
Mitigate threats early in the software development life cycle
There is no doubt that the world will continue to battle with the incidence of security attacks. However, if security is given a first-class treatment in the software development life cycle, it will go a long way to averting some security vulnerabilities in software tools. That said, the pointers above are intended to help companies and software engineers incorporate the best security practices in the software development life cycle.